A major new collaborative initiative on a sustainable economy was launched last month by Sustainable Tompkins, Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ithaca College’s Committed-to-Change Program, Groundswell Center, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Multicultural Resource Center, Center for Transformative Action, Dryden Solutions, and CCE-Tompkins’ Environment Program, Natural Leaders Initiative, Whole Community Project, and Green Jobs Program.

On Nov. 15-16, over 100 community members — representing government, business, community programs, individual entrepreneurs, foundations and investors – came together to strengthen relationships, develop a shared vision, and identify ways to build bridges between local sustainability and social justice efforts that will result in a socially just, resilient regional economy that preserves and maintains our natural environment.

The initiative identifies equity as the preferred driver of both economic development and ecological sustainability, and prioritizes jobs for low-income people both in the city and in rural towns. The ultimate goals are eliminating structural poverty and racism, creating a local economy that works for everyone, and protecting the ecosystems that sustain the region.

The response to this two-day effort was very positive. Participants built new relationships and made many concrete commitments to new or renewed action, while also acknowledging the serious challenges and real work ahead. The planning group is committed to maintaining the momentum from the Building Bridges workshop and drawing more people into the initiative. More information about what happened at the workshop and some of the commitments that were made to move this agenda forward are available on the Dorothy Cotton Institute website. Breakthrough Communities, a national organization that advocates an inclusive green economy, helped design and conduct the two-day event.